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Black Civil Rights and Faith Leaders Call for State and Local Aid

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By AFSCME Staff ·

The civil rights organization, National Action Network, along with other civil rights and faith leaders – representing a combined 30,000 congregations of more than 25 million people – sent a letter to Congress on Thursday calling for the swift passage of state and local aid in the next stimulus bill.

The groups signing the letter laid out the devastating impact on the African American community if Congress fails to provide aid to struggling state and local governments and front-line public service workers.

The public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has exacted a disproportionately brutal toll on African American communities. The emergency has further exposed long-standing systemic racial and economic injustices, including a lack of access to health care, which has contributed to higher rates of underlying conditions in the African-American community.

 “According to the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans constitute 20 percent of all U.S. coronavirus deaths,” the letter states, “although we are only 12 percent of the U.S. population. … The economic harm that communities of color will suffer, if the federal government fails to act, will also be devastating.”

Every day that Congress delays on a state and local aid package, communities across America face a growing danger of cuts to vital public services that we need to fight the pandemic and safely reopen the economy. As tax bases crumble, cash-strapped states and localities are laying off the very front-line public service workers who put their lives at risk every day to protect our communities. 

Brave AFSCME front-line fighters – health care workers, corrections officers, sanitation workers, and school custodians who maintain our schools and keep them disinfected – are all essential to fighting this pandemic and reopening our economy. We can do neither if we lay them off.

“A pink slip is no way to thank our everyday heroes – but that is exactly what will happen unless Congress moves quickly to invest enough aid to fix the problem,” the leaders write in the letter. “We urge Congress to remember that, for decades, the public sector has been one of the nation’s most dependable employers of African Americans, lifting generations of black families into the middle class.”

The letter’s authors note that bipartisan and public support for a state and local aid package is growing, and it’s time for bipartisan action to put working people first – not just corporations and big businesses.

“We are troubled by the reluctance of some elected leaders in Washington to step up for America’s communities in the same way they have for big banks and corporations,” write the authors of the letter. “During this unprecedented moment of challenge and crisis, Main Street clearly needs the same consideration as Wall Street. And we are appalled by the impact this callous disregard for public services will have on people of color.”

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